By Jack Phillips
Republican candidates for two of Arizona’s top offices had their initial hearings in election-related legal challenges Tuesday, setting the schedule for the next steps that need to be taken.
GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and Republican secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem, respectively, argue that they won during the Nov. 8 midterm election and asked judges to overturn the results. They both claimed that problems that occurred at polling locations in Maricopa County on Election Day marred the outcome and disenfranchised voters.
“The secretary does believe that the court will be able to dispose of this case in its entirety on a motion to dismiss without the need for an evidentiary hearing,” Hobbs’ lawyer, Andy Gaona, said in a Maricopa County Superior Court hearing before Judge Peter Thompson. Bryan Blehm, Lake’s attorney, signaled his team will also seek to review ballots themselves, and would file another court motion to do so.
Attorneys for Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Maricopa County have asked a judge to dismiss their challenges during Tuesday’s hearing.
“The secretary does believe that the court will be able to dispose of this case in its entirety on motions to dismiss without the need for an evidentiary hearing,” Andy Gaona, a lawyer at Arizona Secretary of State’s office, said during the hearing, according to local media.
In hearing before another judge on Tuesday, Gaona sharply criticized Finchem’s lawsuit and said his the “claims that are raised by the plaintiffs are baseless.”
“I know that the defendants may be confident about their positions, but I’m hesitant to not set one, and then have to scramble to get everyone ready for one because of how short the timeline is,” said Judge Melissa Julian in response.
The defendants in Lake’s lawsuit have until Thursday at 3 p.m. ET to file their motions to dismiss, according to Thompson. Her team has until Saturday at 3 p.m. to respond.
Filed on Dec. 9, Lake’s lawsuit seeks to overturn the election for Arizona’s governor. Election data shows that Lake, a local television host backed by former President Donald Trump, lost to Hobbs by about 17,000 votes or around 0.6 percentage points.
“We’ve had three whistleblowers from Maricopa County reach out and say the system is seriously flawed,” she alleged to Just the News on Monday. “They were throwing out tens of thousands of signatures saying they were scribbles that in no way matched. But somewhere between there, the ballots were being completely tossed out and they got looped back into the system and counted as if they were fine.”
Hobbs’ campaign, in a statement issued after the lawsuit was submitted, suggested it would be thrown out.
“Kari Lake needs attention like a fish needs water—and independent experts and local election officials of both parties have made it clear that this was a safe, secure, and fair election,” the campaign statement read. “Arizonans made their voices heard and elected Katie Hobbs as their governor. No nuisance lawsuit will change that, and we remain laser-focused on getting ready to hit the ground running on Day One of Katie Hobbs’ administration next year.”
Maricopa officials on Election Day confirmed there were printer errors and told voters to place their ballots inside dropboxes, while they later said no voters were disenfranchised. A spokesperson for the county told Reuters last week that Maricopa “looks forward to sharing facts about the administration of the 2022 General Election and our work to ensure every legal voter had an opportunity to cast their ballot.”
Last month, Lake had filed a public records request to seek additional information about both counted and uncounted ballots that might have been mixed during the election. Following the Nov. 8 midterms, she has also often posted videos of voters who gave accounts of long lines and other alleged election maladministration in Maricopa County.
This week, a Republican Arizona state senator filed a lawsuit in Mohave County that sought to “nullify the results” of Maricopa’s election on Nov. 8 in favor of Lake.
“Because of multiple systemic failures in the conduct of the election in Maricopa County, Arizona … the voting strength of residents in Mohave County, Arizona, was diluted and their constitutional rights were violated,” the lawsuit said, filed by state Sen. Sonny Borrelli and several Mohave voters.